Teamwork Can Secure Our Future

The alarm industry, and ultimately our customers, will greatly benefit from more teamwork among all installing security contractors. That’s because many alarm dealers across the country use third-party central stations to monitor their subscribers’ accounts. Although some dealers use local service providers, many use multi-state or national monitoring companies that must comply with a wide range of municipal, county and state requirements. Of course, these regulations often vacillate depending on the prevailing political wind.

From a monitoring perspective, the array of requirements creates an inefficiency to perform the fundamental job of making notifications. This trickles down to the dealer in terms of costs. And if the industry doesn’t take action, the situation will only get worse.

It is critical to our continued success that the industry influences legislation before it is written into statute or regulation. To do that, we need a strong and collective voice. Without that voice, we are in a weak position and often have little say when municipalities or states regulate our businesses without insight as to the valuable services we provide.

Fortunately, there is a solution to help protect our livelihoods: Every single security professional should become an active and contributing member of industry associations that work to protect our common interests.

One of the borrowed buzzwords business folks use these days is “interoperability,” a term coined by manufacturers. In short, this is a long word to describe agreed upon standards that enable open access to everyone in a competitive marketplace.

Our industry lacks this type of standardization. From village, to county, to state, every authority has their own way of governing how we do business. In some areas, an end-user registration fee is required, meaning that potential customers must pay the government for the right to buy a system from your company. In others, alarm dealers must register and pay a fee in order to do business. Most egregious is that alarm dealers located near some state borders have their markets severely limited if they do not have a physical presence and licensing in both states.

With so many different standards to satisfy each authority’s requirements, alarm dealers must carefully pick and choose the areas where they want to focus their business. Let’s face it, if each town or suburb demands a “nominal fee” in order to do business, this adds up to a significant sum, not to mention the additional paperwork that becomes necessary.

The same is true on the monitoring side as well: Central stations must clear dozens of barriers to provide services in every state, plus abide by various local rules for dispatching. As a result, multiple processes must be established to remain in compliance, which increases operating costs that are passed along to consumers.

The Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) has created an interoperable standard known as the Model Alarm Ordinance, which can be tailored for communities of any size. Yet the industry has not been able to establish these guidelines on a wide-scale basis to facilitate an open-access marketplace.

The reason is our industry associations lack the numbers and resources to make this happen. Time after time, EM24 receives calls from dealers who are blindsided with onerous legislation because no one was watching or guiding the legislators. By then it is too late. With greater “active” participation, the industry would be able to invest significantly to educate lawmakers before they enact laws.

The reality is the industry must have more membership resources to establish an effective lobbying effort, which is absolutely essential to have an impact on the legislative front. Aside from business barriers, with issues like verified response (also called non-response) being dangled in front of uninformed lawmakers by groups that stand to benefit from the upheaval it will cause, it is time for alarm dealers to band together and deliver the right message in the proper way – collectively.

Kevin Lehan is manager of public relations for Des Plaines, Ill.-based EMERgency24.

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